The crowd knew all the words. That was the mark of the men and women who turned up to witness the final celebration of The Almighty’s brief retrospective tour, which saw its original line up come back together after many, many years apart.
They had played Glasgow as a fitting start, these four lads who had met in Strabane in 1988, front-man and main song-writer Ricky Warwick having moved there from Northern Ireland. However, given that it was on those “Viking raids” on London, as they saw them, that they built their reputation for high energy, edgy rock music, this felt like the right place for them to sign off.
The venue was full. There was no room to move, except right at the back near the merch and the crisps. Old friends were greeting each other, waving, shaking hands as they passed each other in the crowd. However, this wasn’t just nostalgia. Although the band had no new material, the selection of songs showed their breadth. They displayed the band’s raw power from the first, with “Resurrection Mutha”, echoed by tracks like “Devil’s Toy” (the band had recorded the video at the Forum) and, a personal favourite of the undersigned, “Wrench”. More subtle dynamics were also on display in “Little Lost Sometimes” and “Bandaged Knees”, which was their response to being asked for a Christmas hit.
The band were on top form, despite their time apart. It was the only way. “Welcome to Defiance” particularly showed it. Floyd London handled the supple bassline with nimble fingers. Warwick’s vocals were strong and clear, here as throughout. Guitarist Andy “Tantrum” McCafferty delivered the edgy and unconventional guitar solo with ease, as he had with all the other solos, long and short, throughout the set. Stump Monroe on drums did not miss a beat throughout the set. Fills were immaculate and powerful, achieving a kind of frantic climax on “Jonestown Mind” towards the end of the set.
If there could be any complaint, perhaps Tantrum’s solos could have been higher in the mix, and “Little Lost Sometimes” was in fact a little lost in the early part of the set which had a strong sense of momentum that could have carried all the way to “Full Force Lovin’ Machine” without stopping.
These were older musicians, breathing new, more mature life into strong songs written by younger men, who were full of the bombast and naïve confidence of their age. And that’s why this wasn’t just nostalgia. People may have come to hear the music hoping for a reminder. What we got was a restatement. Good songs should be heard, and the band must have known, after all the years, and with time allowing the dust to settle on old disputes, that they were the best reason to get back together, so that they could be heard. “With all this expectation…. It’s been amazing” said Warwick as the set reached its close. The performance had been powerful, nearly relentless, with the majority of the songs having a high tempo and a raw delivery, with just the odd pause for breath, like “Jesus Loves You…. But I Don’t”, all the way up to the final “Wild & Wonderful”. Stepping back out into the freezing London air, I think we must all have felt a little like those early concert goers who wondered what it was that had hit them, except this time, the band, as older, more self-possessed men, knew the strength of what they had in their hands and gave us all a priceless gift of performance which went beyond mere recollection. 5/6
Text: Alex Maines
Photography: Anne-Marie Forker